Extended Ending, Chapter 37

Chapter Thirty-Seven

The Other Fight

Kyra looked to the soldiers arrayed before her. “Today,” she cried, “we fight the evil that has so long oppressed these lands!” Her armor glowed red as it reflected the light from the burning sky. “We throw ourselves against the stone wall that would seek to keep us from our freedom and liberty!”

The human soldiers raised their fists and bellowed a cheer.

Kyra continued, “Some of us have lost families to this tyrant. Some have lost homes and lands. But no matter what was taken from us, we have all lost and continue to lose that which all citizens of every country hold dear: the right to live without the fear of death and destruction looming over our heads!”

This excited another fervent cheer from the men. “Yes!” one soldier shouted. “Let’s have his head and be done with it! No more death at his hands!”

Kyra unsheathed her sword and lifted it above her head. “The elves may be better fighters, stronger and faster than any of us. But let us prove today that as humans, we have as much heart as their best swordsman or spellcaster! Let no lines of division separate us on the battlefield. We will fight and die beside them, and we will be honored to do so! Onward to victory!”

She leaped onto her horse and heeled the courser forward, a force of almost five-hundred men following behind her.

The elves had already begun the infiltration of the city, galloping between the rotting houses.

Within moments, Contemno’s soldiers began to appear, streaming through the doorways of the vacant homes. Where can they all be coming from? Kyra wondered. It defies logic that one-hundred men could have fit in that small hut. And yet they continue to pour out as though they were coming from a castle garrison!

The desolate streets soon filled with soldiers bearing the black dragon of Contemno on their banners. Their blades met with the elves’, and the ring of battle filled the city with its deafening clang.

Kyra turned down a side street. “If we can circle around them and attack from the rear, perhaps we can gain the advantage,” she told the sergeant beside her. The smell of blood was beginning to saturate the air. But is it from the elves or Contemno’s army? Kyra thought.

The sergeant barked several orders to the soldiers. Then he directed to Kyra, “We can split into two bands, one circling to the north, and the other to the south. We can enclose the enemy like the pincers of a spider!”

Kyra nodded. “Good, then let that be our plan. You take a squadron to the north; I will take the rest to the south.”

The sergeant wheeled his horse around and two-hundred-and-fifty soldiers followed him to the north.

Kyra beckoned the remaining swordsmen to the south. She heeled her horse into a gallop, but before she could traverse the length of the street, a legion of Contemno’s soldiers marched onto the roadway. Kyra reined her horse to a halt, kicking up a cloud of dust that obscured the approaching force for a moment. Sparing a glance back to her soldiers, she said. “The fight begins here! Draw swords!” The steely rasp of blade against scabbard announced their readiness to fight. “Attack!” she cried, and flung her horse forward into the fray.

Contemno’s soldiers bared their teeth and ran toward Kyra. I have the advantage, being on a horse, she thought as the distance between her and the enemy narrowed.

When she was a mere two paces away, she swung her sword at the nearest soldier, and the blade bit deep into his chest, severing the chainmail he wore. He crumpled, only to be replaced by another soldier. Again, Kyra hacked at his form, this time slashing at his neck.

A thrown lance glanced off Kyra’s helm, but the blow knocked her backward, and she was nearly tossed from her horse. Another of Contemno’s soldiers seized the opportunity and jabbed his sword into her horse’s chest. The animal squealed and his front legs gave out, falling to the side and pinning Kyra’s leg underneath him.

Kyra’s men roared and ran to her aid, hewing any soldier who stood in their path.

Grimacing, Kyra tried to pick herself up, but her horse’s writhing prevented her from loosing her leg. My foot is still stuck in the stirrup! she realized. Letting go of her sword, she reached for her belt knife and twisted to reach the leather strap that held her stirrup in place. Slicing through the leather, she managed to finally break free and bent to retrieve her sword.

But before she could grasp hold of it, a boot came down on top of the steel. “Does the little princess want her sword back?” came the scornful drawl from one of Contemno’s soldiers.

Straightening, Kyra answered, “Yes, I do.” Then quick as any elf, she jabbed her knife into the soldier’s throat. As his last breath gurgled through the wound in his neck, Kyra bent and picked up her sword, now red from the blood of the soldiers.

   Kyra’s men had created a circle around her, and were keeping Contemno’s soldiers from advancing any closer. She surveyed the street: blood was collecting in ever-increasing puddles, staining the dirt with crimson pools. The salty smell of sweat battled with the stench of carnage, each fighting to gain the upper hand. The ring of metal crashed against Kyra’s ears, reverberating off the carcasses of forsaken homes. A pile of corpses was steadily growing, with most of Kyra’s soldiers’ horses adding to the mound. When will we break through this onslaught? Kyra thought. The dust prevents me from seeing how many more of Contemno’s soldiers are left! If there are many more, I don’t think the rest of my men will be able to fight their way through. Fifty of Kyra’s soldiers had already given their lives, and although the cadavers belonged mostly to Contemno’s men, the enemy continued to fight tirelessly, more soldiers filling the places of those who perished.

Gritting her teeth, she pushed her way to the edge of the circle and slashed at Contemno’s soldiers, crying, “For father! For Halderon! For my people!” Her blade became a deadly blur as her opponents fell before her, heaping one on top of the other.

But no matter how many she and her soldiers felled, others continued to come. When will this end? Kyra demanded to herself as more of her soldiers succumbed to the swords of the enemy.

When half of her force remained, and her legs threatened to fail her with every swing of her sword, a horn sounded throughout the city. Contemno’s soldiers paused and looked toward the black gates of the inner city. Then, sparing not another glance back at Kyra and her men, they ran toward the heart of Helsguard.

♦ ♦ ♦

Gerad sat on a rock along the roadway. The tents of the elves stretched before him, passing out of sight as they extended eastward into the distance. He sighed. If only I could avenge my family by wetting my steel with the blood of my enemies. His hands trembled. If only…

The crash of battle drifted over him. He turned his head toward the sound. The other elves and humans allotted as the rear guard stood idly, plucking the taut string of a pavilion as they passed by. A rustle in the trees caught Gerad’s attention.

Standing, he walked over to where the forest began to impinge upon the roadway. The barren branches of the deciduous trees were in bleak contrast to the evergreens that still retained their needles. “Although even the pines are beginning to brown,” Gerad noticed as he grew closer. He glanced back at the row of tents, almost fifty paces away. 

Suddenly, a soldier leaped from behind one of the evergreens, sword in hand and howling incoherently. A black dragon was emblazoned on his breastplate.

Gerad snarled as he drew his sword. “Come and fight me if you dare!” he called.

The soldier stopped and waited, cocking his head. Then he smiled, and a band of twenty more of the King’s Men emerged from the trees. “We didn’t think the elves would leave a rear guard,” he said. “Seems the magical animals have more sense they Contemno’s given them credit for. No matter. You’re just a human anyway.”

He advanced towards Gerad, and took a swing with his sword.

Gerad ducked, and before the King’s Man could recover, Gerad severed his head with a single stroke. The other soldiers of the King’s Men looked at their fallen brother, then dropped their swords and ran into the forest. 

Gerad breathed heavily and touched his sword, now stained red with blood. He rubbed the crimson liquid between his fingers and bared his teeth. “I will not stop at one.” Then he walked back to the roadway and continued until he met with the other elvish swordsmen and, with them, fell into the heat of battle. 

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